December 23, 2017 – Pregnant Nigerian Ladies Who Gave Birth In Libyan Detention Camp Recount Ordeal
The Afriqiyah airbus showed patches of grey light as it made for descent at the Cargo wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos on Tuesday, December 7.
Seated in the plane are 245 young Nigerians returning home after a tortuous migrant journey that led them into prison cells where they were auctioned as slaves. As they began to alight from the plane, many of them bursts into songs of jubilation, kneeling to thank God for saving them from deadly encounters. Among the returnees were some young women clutching babies.
They were the ones who combined the tortuous reality of life in a migrant cell with birthing and nursing infants. One of them was Glory Osas, who in a seeming effort to disguise her pain, felicitously named her baby Happy. “I named him Happy because of what I suffered in the prison in Libya. There was no naming ceremony, I just gave him that name”, she said with a blank countenance. Her forehead was covered with sweat even though she was seated in an open-air space. Her hair, plaited in three corn rows, had become locked from months of neglect. She ran her hands through the lines of hre hair, as if trying to loosen the knotted ends. For the 26- year- old, she began to dream of life in Europe the time she started working as a hairdresser in Benin.
She was pregnant when she left Nigeria last year to make the journey through the Sahara Desert to Libya. Asked what emboldened her resolve to travel through the desert with a pregnancy, she barricaded the question and also chose to keep mute over the paternity of her child. Rather, she chose to dwell on the agony she experienced while nursing her eight-month-old son in a Libya prison where she spent nine months after she was caught by Arab policemen trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy on February 23rd. “I was injured by the prison warden three days after I gave birth to my son. We were beaten like animals, there was no dignity for me in pregnancy.” If her treatment in prison as a pregnant woman bore fatal remembrance, what she encountered after the birth of her child was more heart wrenching.
“There was no baby wear or maternity product. I had to remove my shirt to cover my baby when he was born. I used the blankets given to us in the prison to wrap him for some warmth. I cut towels and nylons into pieces and stitched them together to serve as diapers.” With the improvised diapers, it didn’t come as a surprise that the baby would later develop rashes in his private part. With her post-partum ordeal in the migrant cell, Glory’s posture lacked any glory or grace. She stared into the void like one who had lost faith in life. Asked of her plans for the future, she said; “I don’t know what the future holds for me. 26 people died in the Hilux vehicle that was used to transport us through the desert to Libya. Only God saved me.”
Love beyond the confines of religion Sonia Alli beckoned to the reporter from where she sat cuddling a two month old baby. Carrying a white attachment which stood distinctly from the dark patches of her hair, she was easily noticeable from the crowd. Her 23-year-old body bears the insignia of a post-partum travail. As she made to breastfeed the baby girl she named Fatima, one could see dry patches on the skin of her breast. She certainly had to battle skin infection in a prison where access to clean water was rationed. She said: “I didn’t let the doctor in the prison take my delivery. I was afraid of being cut because the Arab doctor in our prison does not give much time for labour. They just make arrangement for a caesarean section once one is not able to push out the baby in a short time.
I didn’t want to go through nursing a cut after child birth in prison, so I planned with some other girls to deliver the baby without medical supervision.” She added that she could not get hot water to dab her bulging stomach, and It was not until she got to the deportation camp that the baby got immunized. Sonia, who dropped out of a public secondary school in Edo State to chase the golden fleece, added that she named her baby Fatima because the man who bailed her out from prostitution in Libya, whom she later lived with, is a Muslim while she is a Christian. An economic migrant, Sonia got pregnant in Libya after she met a 29-year-old bloke who paid N800,000 to secure her freedom from a prostitution ring. Like many female migrants, her ‘benefactor’ offered to sponsor her trip to Europe with the promise that she would pay back when she starts working as a house help in Italy.
[By The Nation]